The Air Force Is Getting a Replacement for Its Cold War-Era Pistols

The Air Force recently announced that it would soon deploy 125,000 of the Army's new modular handgun systems to replace the Cold War M9 sidearm.
According to an Air Force press release, the service's LifeCycle Management Center's Small Arms Program Office plans to complete field work on the 9mm M18 pistol by August 2022.
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The $ 22.1 million deal with Sig Sauer includes test ammunition and engineering services, according to the press release.
The Army placed an order worth up to $ 580 million with Sig Sauer in early 2017 after the company defeated Glock Inc., FN America and Beretta USA, makers of the current 9mm M9 service pistol, in the MHS competition.
The 10-year contract provides for Sig to supply the army and other services with full-size M17 and M18 versions of the 9mm pistol.
The new pistols can be equipped with silencers and have tritium visors for poor lighting conditions as well as 17 and 21-round magazines.
The Air Force chose the more compact M18 MHS to replace the full-size M9.
"The Air Force bought the M9 back in the 1980s and the design has not really changed since then," said Merrill Adkison, senior logistics manager at the Small Arms Program Office, in the press release. "M9 are larger, heavier all-metal guns; while M18 are lighter polymer guns with a more even trigger and adjustable handles for big and small hands."
The new sidearms are also much cheaper, according to the publication. A new M18 costs the Air Force about a third of what it would cost to buy an M9 today.
In addition to the Air Force, the U.S. Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard have ordered the army's side weapon purchase.
"It is important for the U.S. Air Force to advance weapon system upgrade and exchange to keep up with potential opponents and use the best technology and equipment for our war fighters," said Brian Lautzenheiser, senior program manager at the Small Arms Program Office, said in the press release.
- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.
See also: Sig Sauer: Every service has placed orders for a modular handgun system

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